Eco-Athletes

11th Hour Racing Team and Co-Skippers Mark Towill, Charlie Enright Commit to Super-Green Round-the-World Ocean Race Campaign

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Americans Mark Towill and Charlie Enright made environmental sustainability their primary cause when they led the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race (now known as The Ocean Race). 

The duo announced today that their new company, 1 Degree, has signed 11th Hour Racing as its title sponsor in a campaign dedicated to winning the round-the-world race and to stepping up their already best-in-class green game. 

11th Hour Racing, an organization that promotes healthy oceans, in part by making world class sailing racing more sustainable, will support the new team through sponsorship investment and sustainability expertise. 

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Towill and 11th Hour Racing President Rob MacMillan about the new campaign and how the team plans to raise its green game even further.

The 11th Hour Racing team, which was introduced today by Co-Skippers Mark Towill and Charlie Enright, will begin a campaign with two audacious goals:

  1. Win the 2021-22 round-the-world Ocean Race and,
  2. Raise the very high sustainability bar Towill and Enright set during the 2017-18 race when they led the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team.

On the former, Towill believes that the team has unfinished business from two previous Ocean Race attempts. Both times, Towill and Enright had less than six months to prepare their team. This go-round, they have the luxury of two years to plan, train and develop their boat.

 

Mark Towill, Co-Skipper of the 11th Hour Racing team (Photo credit: Amory Ross)

 

Charlie Enright, Co-Skipper of the 11th Hour Racing team (Photo credit: Amory Ross)

 

Regarding upping the team’s sustainability game, Towill, Enright and 11th Hour Racing believe the expertise and passion will carry over from the 2017-18 race.

“The momentum is already there,” Towill said. “We established a strong sustainability baseline that will inspire not only us but hopefully other sailing teams, as well as teams from other sports.”

Building on that baseline starts now. 11th Hour Racing is already working with Towill and Enright on the four sustainability pillars they established for the upcoming campaign:

  1. Innovation
  2. Legacy
  3. Leadership
  4. Collaboration

“On innovation, we are working hard to become more energy efficient and reduce our negative environmental impacts in everything we do,” shared Towill. “This includes yacht design, sails, and clothing. We are scrutinizing every material we use and how they are disposed of at end of life.”

Leaving a significant environmental legacy at each of the race’s 12 ports was the most important social responsibility aspect of the 2017-18 race for Towill and Enright.

“11th Hour Racing made grants to environmental NGOs in each of the communities we visited,” the California native recalled. “When we stopped in Cape Town, we were, of course, struck by the horrible drought there. So, there we supported an organization that works to improve equitable access to fresh water.”

The 11th Hour Racing team promises to expand these legacy programs in the run up to 2021-22.

 

EXPANDING THE REACH OF 11TH HOUR RACING TEAM’S ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE

Towill, Enright, and the 11th Hour Racing team know that, to maximize the legacy of their environmental work, they will have to reach beyond the fans who experience The Ocean Race in person.

“We know that, while race villages draw good crowds, we only visit a set amount of ports,” acknowledged 11th Hour Racing President Rob MacMillan. “How well we grow our audience away from shore will help determine the extent of our impact.”

 

Rob MacMillan, co-founder and President of 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Maaike Bernstrom)

 

The 11th Hour Racing team has committed to a massive away from shore fan engagement effort between now and the 2020-21 Ocean Race. They have a strong template on which to build: During the 2017-18 campaign, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race generated more than 24,000 pieces of ocean health-infused content (online, print, TV, digital, etc.) that reached a cumulative audience of 800 million.

And while it is tough to get mainstream media attention in cluttered sports markets like the US where sailing has a relatively small following, the team will also tell its sustainability story in countries where sailing is a major spectator sport.

One of those countries is France.

“Did you know that 80 percent of people in France follow sailing?” asked MacMillan. “In France and in other sailing hotbeds, the entire 11th Hour Racing team will act as environmental champions, reaching out to communities that will respond to our messaging.”

That messaging understandably centered on ocean health during Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s 2017-18 campaign. The climate crisis — and its clear links to ocean vitality — will play a bigger role in 2021-22, alongside the push for healthier oceans.

“Climate change is negatively impacting ocean health and what we’re doing to the oceans is negatively affecting the climate,” offered MacMillan. “It is said that one out of every two breaths come from the ocean. The challenges, from marine debris to climate change-induced ocean acidification and more, are immense. How we treat the oceans and deal with climate change will determine if we make it or not. So, we will tie the two together.”

 

During the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, teams collected more than 75 samples of water as part of the race’s Science Program to test for microplastics harmful to marine mammals like Dolphins and other fish (Photo credit: Martin Keruzoré/Volvo AB)

 

France will be the epicenter of 11th Hour Racing team’s efforts over the next two years. The Atlantic coastal region of Brittany will serve as the team’s technical and training base.

“Technical partner MerConcept is a corporate leader in France,” noted MacMillan. “That will give us an entrée to other sustainability-minded companies and executives in the country and throughout the EU which also expand our impact.”

Towill believes the team’s environmental ethos will provide them with technical advantages versus its competitors, from lighter weight materials to lower costs from reduced waste.

That is an advantage the 11th Hour Racing team is happy give away.

“We know that applying a sustainability lens makes our boat faster,” Towill shared. “But we are fine if the other boats try to copy us because that will be better for the oceans. And that will spur us on to find more environmentally-based technical edges which will help us win the race versus the other boats on the water and against ocean degradation and climate change.”

 

11TH HOUR RACING ALSO WORKING WITH THE OCEAN RACE

11th Hour Racing also is in favor of other teams in The Ocean Race taking meaningful pro-environmental actions.

In addition to being a primary sponsor of and technical advisor to the 11th Hour Racing team, the Newport, RI-based organization is also working with organizers of The Ocean Race for a second consecutive cycle. It will host between eight and ten Ocean Summits over the next two years, with the first taking place on September 20 in Genoa, Italy.

But for now, the team is showing the environmental way among The Ocean Race entries.

“Mark (Towill) and Charlie (Enright) are tenacious,” remarked MacMillan. “This was in evidence during the last Ocean Race, when they continued to the finish despite mishaps¹ that would’ve stopped almost anyone else. And they will display that tenacity from now until the end of the 2021-22 Ocean Race in the fights for ocean health and against climate change.”

 

GSB’S Take: I am glad the 11th Hour Racing team has set audacious objectives for its 2021-22 campaign: Win the Ocean Race and significantly increase their positive environmental impacts.

The first goal is simple to understand if super-difficult to achieve.  

But the second is hazier: what would winning — and winning BIG —  on ocean health and climate look like?

Mark Towill, Charlie Enright and 11th Hour Racing are working towards developing measurable and meaningful environmental goals for the 2021-22 campaign across a wide range of metrics.

The metric GSB is most interested in is the growth in the away-from-shore audience because 1. Its size dwarfs that of the on-shore audience and, 2. We need massive global grassroots mobilizations to successfully take on our existential ocean health and climate crises.

With that in mind, GSB challenges the 11th Hour Racing team to set a goal of at least doubling its away-from-shore audience numbers versus 2017-18.

Now let’s go win!

 

¹ The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team was able to finish despite being involved in an accidental collision with a fishing boat outside of Hong Kong that resulted in one fatality and then suffering a broken mast off of the Falkland Islands.

 


 

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